I love a good behind-the-scenes fact — even more so when it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. To that end, I’ve decided to gather some of the most heartwarming, emotionally impactful, and just plain cute movie facts that I really enjoy.
Here are 63 heartwarming movie facts that make the films that much better!
Rihanna was originally not interested in returning to music quite yet to contribute to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. However, she was so moved by the trailer for the film that she decided to cut short her hiatus and not only cowrote “Lift Me Up” to reflect her own experience with motherhood, but also collaborated on “Born Again” for the film.
After being asked to score Schindler’s List and seeing a cut of the film, John Williams actually had to take a walk to compose himself. He claimed that he wasn’t talented enough for the momentous, important job ahead of him and that there had to be someone better — director Steven Spielberg replied, “I know, but they’re all dead.”
Robin Williams’s brother has a cameo in Mrs. Doubtfire as the pool bartender. IRL, he founded a winery.
The iconic Marvel line “He’s a friend from work” from Thor: Ragnarok was actually suggested by a Make-a-Wish kid who was visiting the set.
And another iconic Marvel line (that’s much more heartbreaking) — “I love you 3,000” — was put in the film because it’s something Robert Downey Jr.’s real-life son used to say to him.
One more cute Marvel fact: The actors love to play Boggle together on set. Paul Rudd and Don Cheadle are great, but Mark Ruffalo is terrible, according to Chris Evans.
Christopher Lee was a MASSIVE Lord of the Rings fan and had actually even met J.R.R. Tolkien at a bar in the 1950s. He reread the books every year, and he could recite passages from memory.
Also, he’d originally wanted to play Gandalf — though Ian McKellen was already in talks for the role. Once Lee ended up on set (playing Saruman) alongside McKellen, he told McKellen that he’d wanted his role but he was “perfectly happy to be in an ‘Ian McKellen film.’” McKellen said back, “But not as thrilled as I am — to be in a ‘Christopher Lee movie!’” The two became good friends, and McKellen wrote a tribute to Lee when he died.
In contrast with Lee, Viggo Mortensen only took on the Lord of the Rings role of Aragorn because his son was a fan of the book series and convinced him.
Similarly to Viggo, Raul Julia only took on the role of M. Bison in Street Fighter because his kids were big fans of the game. He was dying of stomach cancer during filming but persevered, though he died before it premiered. The film is dedicated to him.
Director Zack Snyder fell in love with Fred & Ginger coffee while shooting Justice League — in fact, he loved it so much that he put the brand in the film (his cut; it’s not in the theatrical cut) as an homage. He even cameos in the scene.
In Spy Kids 2, Juni reveals his full name: Juni Rocket Racer Rebel Cortez. This is a nod to director Robert Rodriguez’s sons Rocket, Racer, and Rebel.
In Top Gun: Maverick, you can briefly see a diner called Cecil’s Cafe. This is a reference to director Joseph Kosinski’s favorite diner from his hometown.
Kelly — Rufus’s daughter in Bill & Ted Face the Music — was named after George Carlin’s IRL daughter, Kelly. Carlin had portrayed Rufus in the first two Bill & Ted films but died before the third film.
Kevin Peter Hall, the actor who played the Predator in Predator, can be seen in a brief cameo at the end of the film. It was included as a kind of break/reward for Hall after the exhausting work of playing the film’s monster.
In the Bridesmaids scene where Melissa McCarthy’s character won’t stop flirting with a guy she suspects to be an air marshal, the guy was played by McCarthy’s actual husband, Ben Falcone.
Director Rob Reiner put his mom in his film When Harry Met Sally — and gave her one of the most iconic lines in the film. In fact, to get Meg Ryan to make the right noises, Reiner also demonstrated a bunch of orgasm noises…in front of his mom.
Director James Gunn also put his parents in a quick cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and named them “weird old man” and “weird old man’s mistress” in the credits.
James Gunn also put his dog in his film The Suicide Squad, when Bloodsport’s daughter is watching the footage of the squad in her foster home.
And Gunn’s dog had a cameo in his film Guardians of the Galaxy!
One final pet one: Peter Jackson put his family pugs in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
It’s not quite a pet, but Sam Raimi manages to get a cameo of his beloved car in every film.
The What We Do in the Shadows commentary revealed that the filmmakers cast a woman they found in a real retirement home as Katherine. The woman, Ethel Robinson, who was thrilled to be included in the film, had fangs put in her dentures.
Voice actor James Hong’s father owned a noodle shop when Hong was growing up, which Hong used to work in as a kid. The filmmakers reportedly used this info in Kung Fu Panda and made Hong’s character, Mr. Ping, own a noodle shop that his son works in!
One of Hogarth’s character quirks in The Iron Giant was filling his Twinkies with whipped cream. This was written in because it was something director Brad Bird actually did as a kid. To make things extra realistic, Eli Marienthal, who voiced Hogarth, actually ate Twinkies while recording.
The audition that got Chris Hemsworth in the running for Thor featured his mom. “She must have nailed it because it got me back in the room,” he said of his mom’s performance.
When Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni realized they didn’t have enough stormtrooper costumes for a scene in The Mandalorian, they reached out to a fan organization that builds accurate stormtrooper costumes for help.
Much of the animation of Toothless in the How to Train Your Dragon series was based on supervising animator Gabe Hordos’s rescue cat.
50 First Dates, a rom-com about a woman who forgets each day as it ends, actually inspired a real program for people with Alzheimer’s. The film ends with Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore) watching a tape each morning of her loved ones explaining what’s happened to her and where she is. This gave Charlotte Dell, the director of social services at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx, an idea. She started a program where relatives of residents with early stages of dementia would record video messages they’d play for the residents each morning.
The Chinese restaurant scene in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was filled with people who were a part of Fred Rogers’s life and his show.
Remember when Riley first draws Bing Bong in Inside Out? Well, they used a real sketch from the director of photography’s 7-year-old daughter.
Actual young cancer patients were cast in Patch Adams, which featured Robin Williams helping sick kids through laughter. Patient Cameron Brooke Stanley, who was 7 when she appeared in the film, described Williams making the kids laugh even when the cameras weren’t rolling, and overall spending a lot of time with them.
Quentin Tarantino is a massively famous director today, but it wasn’t always this way. One of the first major interviews he got for his early film Reservoir Dogs was in a magazine called Orbit. As a tribute to the magazine, he wore a shirt advertising it in Pulp Fiction.
In The Sound of Music, they had to film just silhouettes during “Something Good” because Julie Andrews kept giggling — the lights above them kept making strange noises during the scene.
You know that super-cute cuddling photo of Lara Jean and Peter in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before that serves as Lara Jean’s phone lock screen? That was really just a photo of Lana Condor and Noah Centineo. A crew member took the photo behind the scenes.
After the baby who was supposed to play Toby in Labyrinth kept crying at the puppets, he was replaced with the infant son of the conceptual and costume designer for the film, who was used to being around puppets. The baby, Toby Froud, later ended up becoming a puppeteer and a fabricator of goblins who worked on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Fun fact: He peed on David Bowie.
Remember Tabitha’s fish from The Boss Baby: Family Business? Well, it turns out that director Tom McGrath based the fish on his own pet fish, who had recently died.
In the first Harry Potter film, Daniel Radcliffe saw that Richard Harris (the original Dumbledore) was having trouble remembering his lines, so he pretended that he needed practice and asked him to run lines.
Speaking of Harry Potter — Gary Oldman (Sirius) helped teach Daniel Radcliffe guitar. They bonded over their love of music, and Oldman even apparently bought Radcliffe a bass guitar.
You probably already know this, but Alan Rickman was MUCH nicer IRL than his character Snape. Though one time, he did act in character — when Rickman found out that a child with cancer visiting the set was denied his request to be in the film, he went into “Snape mode” and demanded to know why. Rickman even brought him into the shot, though the scene was later cut.
One last Harry Potter/Alan Rickman one: Rupert Grint was once doodling an unflattering drawing of Rickman while filming a scene in Potions class when he realized that Rickman was standing right behind him. Rickman actually made him sign it and kept the drawing for years, saying he was “very fond of it.”
According to a DVD featurette, Paris Hilton was nervous about screaming in her House of Wax death scene, so she asked the crew to join her — they agreed, and screamed with her to make her more comfortable.
The Rock’s character in Moana, Maui, had his appearance partially modeled on The Rock’s grandfather, Samoan wrestler Peter Maivia. Maivia was known for his tribal tattoos, much like the ones Maui has in the movie.
In Groundhog Day, Rita’s favorite drink is sweet vermouth because that was the favorite drink of director Harold Ramis’s wife IRL.
The adult actors in the Twilight series were not used to working with kids, and in the fifth film, they kept swearing in front of Mackenzie Foy (who played Renesmee). To keep them in line, Foy created and decorated a swear jar.
And director Kenny Ortega had a similar jar for the High School Musical films — but for when cast members were caught yawning. He donated the money in the jar each year to charity.
Mary Gibbs was only 2½ years old when she started recording for Monsters Inc. To get her lines, director Pete Docter chased her around the studio with a mic and recorded things she said. According to Gibbs, if they wanted her to say something specific, they’d use a Cookie Monster puppet to talk to her.
Forrest Gump used Tom Hanks’s brother Jim as his stunt double for the running scenes after other stunt doubles failed at re-creating his awkward jog. Jim called the run “a stupid Hanks thing.”
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Laura Dern kept saying “pew” whenever she fired her blaster.
Kevin Smith, who wrote and directed Mallrats, wrote a cameo for Stan Lee in which he talked about a past love who got away. Lee was worried his wife would be upset at the scene, and only agreed to do it if Smith added a scene where he said he was joking.
Christian Slater stole a Star Trek costume when he had a cameo in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country because he was a big fan of the series. He also supposedly never cashed his $750 paycheck, framing it instead.
And finally, this one’s a bit more funny than cute, but I still think this is sweet of Jeff Anderson: Anderson refused to list pornographic titles in front of child actor Ashley Pereira and the actor playing her mother in Clerks. This is why you can’t see them in the shot — however, the two of them were later read the lines by someone else for reaction shots.
What’s your favorite behind-the-scenes movie fact? Let us know in the comments!